Symposium Archive

Papanek Symposium 2015
Émigré Design Culture: Histories of the Social in Design

This international symposium examines the significance of Austrian and Central European émigré and exile architects/designers in promoting a progressive culture of debate in the USA, around the needs of society and strategies for social inclusion. The culture of the social in design that emerged in the US from the 1920s to the 1960s was defined by collaboration. The symposium is the first to address the pivotal role played by émigré and exile networks, in New York, Boston, Chicago, Aspen, and L.A., in shaping a new social agenda within design.

Cutting-edge research will bring to the fore the ways in which architects and designers utilized their Viennese and European schooling to confront political realities of World War II and beyond. The lessons adapted by prominent figures such as Josef Frank, Richard Neutra, Frederick Kiesler, Eva Zeisel, Bernard Rudofsky and Victor Papanek prompt the revisiting of discussions that originated on Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse; illuminating design’s role in the creation of progressive social communities.

Leading scholars in the fields of architectural and design history, cultural history and anthropology consider the critical contribution of émigrés and exiles in forming new humanistic directions in design. This historical appraisal opens a new forum in which to debate the role of the social in design and its relevance for today's global perspective.

Venue: Angewandte Exhibition Centre Heiligenkreuzer Hof, Schönlaterngasse 5, 1010, Vienna Austria. Map

Convened & Curated by: Dr. Elana Shapira
Directed by: Prof. Dr. Alison J. Clarke
Supported by: Bryleigh Morsink

Organised as part of the FWF (Austrian Science Fund) research project award ‘Émigré Cultural Networks and the Founding of Social Design’, Department of Design History & Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna.

Public event, free of charge. Register here

The Lecture and Symposium are conducted in English.

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Papanek Symposium 2013
Emerging and Alternative Economies of Design

The Papanek Symposium 2013 brings together international experts from China, Europe, India, Singapore, and the US, to examine the social and political imperative of design in emerging economies.

Design in the 21st century, harnessed by rising powers striving for economic competitiveness and cultural profile on the world stage, has taken on a newly urgent political significance. The unprecedented quantity of production and cultural engagement with design, from China to India, is shaping our collective futures. Can alternative design genres develop on the periphery of established neo-liberal models of economics and consumer culture? What is their potential to generate social innovation and challenge pre-existing, unsustainable economies of production?

Emerging and Alternative Economies of Design: The Social Imperative of Global Design joins together voices from leading international design institutes, research thinktanks, social science projects and applied design initiatives to question the social futures of design. From the frugal digital initiative led by TED-speaker Vinay Venkatraman (, to the ethnographic corporate research of PARC Xerox ( and the smaller scale initiatives of hybrid design innovators (, this second Papanek Symposium offers a unique perspective on the design politics of emerging economies.

Venue: AULA der Wissenschaften, Wollzeile 27a, 1010 Vienna, Austria. Map

Curated by Alison Clarke with Heng Zhi

Kindly supported by the Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs

Public event, free of charge. Register here

The Lecture and Symposium are conducted in English.

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Papanek Symposium 2011
Anti-Design: Prescription for Rebellion?

The Victor J. Papanek symposium celebrates the legacy of Papanek as a leading critical thinker of design. Each event embraces a timely theme, bringing together interdisciplinary speakers to discuss and debate issues with a bearing on contemporary design practice.

The theme of the launch symposium, ‘Anti-Design: A Prescription for Rebellion’, takes its slogan from Papanek’s clarion call to designers, to look beyond the aesthetics of conventional product design to a broader, politicised vision of design’s power to transform social futures. Invited speakers, from historians to contemporary designers, will present their visions and critical reflections on the potentiality of design’s anarchic past and future.

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